Martin Payne, 60, was found dead in his Metchosin home on July 12, 2019. (Martin Payne/Facebook)

Martin Payne, 60, was found dead in his Metchosin home on July 12, 2019. (Martin Payne/Facebook)

William Head prison escapees charged in homicide of Metchosin man

James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage charged in relation to homicide of Martin Payne

Two inmates who escaped Metchosin’s William Head Institution in July of last year have been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a man who lived nearby the prison.

Police announced the charges against James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage on Saturday (June 13).

Busch, who was 42 at the time, and Armitage, who was 30, broke out of the prison in the early evening of July 7, 2019, according to Correctional Services Canada. The pair’s disappearance sparked a manhunt by West Shore RCMP.

The escapees were found two days later after commenting on an off-duty Mountie’s dog in Esquimalt. At the time of escape, Busch was serving a sentence for second-degree murder and assault and had previously served time for aggravated sexual assault and escaping custody. Armitage was serving a 13-year, 10-month sentence for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences.

READ ALSO: Sentencing delayed for escaped Metchosin prisoner

On July 12, four days after the inmates were found, West Shore RCMP attended a home in the 1000-block of Brookview Drive in Metchosin to check on the well-being of Martin Payne, 60, after he failed to show up for work. Three days earlier, on July 9, Oak Bay police had found Payne’s red Ford pickup truck on Woodburn Avenue.

Officers found Payne’s body inside his home and called the death as suspicious. An investigation by major crime unit detectives quickly began.

A statement from Payne’s family, also released June 13, said he was “deeply loved,” and described him as “exceptionally gentle” and “caring” with unfailing love, support and encouragement.

“We have continued to mourn his senseless loss every day for the past 11 months,” the statement reads. “We are completely devastated and have been relying heavily on one another throughout this horrifying ordeal.”

The family thanked everyone who has supported them as well as the law enforcement agencies that have worked on the case. They have also asked that their privacy be respected as they continue to mourn.

READ ALSO: Metchosin working with William Head to improve communication after prison break

Insp. Todd Preston, the officer in charge of West Shore RCMP, gave his condolences to the family.

“We know that this has been a very difficult time for the community and citizens of the West Shore and in particular, Metchosin,” Preston said. “We want to thank the citizens for their patience in the investigative process.”

About one month after Payne’s death, residents in Metchosin spoke about their discomfort in knowing two inmates escaped William Head prison and that the public was not notified about their escape until nearly 12 hours later over Facebook.

Kym Hill and her husband Charles Knighton are Payne’s neighbours and held a vigil for him shortly after police found Payne. At the time, Hill said knowing why the escapees were in prison in the first place was “chilling” and that she would have appreciated a warning at any time of the day or night to be prepared.

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns said the District has been in communication with William Head Institution since July and that a number of changes have been made over the past 11 months. He said notification measures have been upgraded so the Metchosin fire chief, who has an alert system set up for residents, is notified of a suspected escape from the prison. Before, the chief wouldn’t be notified until an escape was confirmed.

“I have full confidence in the warden and I know the local people here are devastated by this,” Ranns said. “I feel confident that everything that can be done will be done at William Head by the local administration.”

At the end of September 2019, it was revealed in court that a Correctional Services Canada analysis deemed Armitage fit for a medium-security institution but that an override was recommended and he was moved to the low-security William Head in April 2018.

READ ALSO: Months after inmates escape Metchosin prison, community still wants answers

Ranns said he wants to see rules in place so that receiving wardens, like the one at William Head, can say no to an override.

“Let’s face it, it’s a federal institution and we don’t have any real sanction to get our way but that’s going to be our position,” Ranns said. “We won’t be satisfied until that happens. We want to let our local guys make the decision and we don’t want this happening again.”

Despite the many concerns and questions from residents over the past 11 months, Ranns said he thinks police have done a good job in ensuring they have the right evidence so “the full force of the law is thrown at” the two escapees.

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

HomicideMetchosin

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(File photo)
PQB crime report: Vandals strike in Parksville, prowler lurks in Nanoose Bay

Oceanside RCMP receive 276 complaints in one-week period

The intersection of Despard Avenue and Moilliet Street, where a child was struck and injured in November 2020. (Mandy Moraes photo)
High-traffic Parksville intersection to get temporary 4-way stop

City staff to monitor effectiveness of traffic-calming measure at Despard and Moilliet

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has listed Harbour Air and Air Canada flights to and from Nanaimo, from April 3, 4 and 12, on its list of flights with COVID-19. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported for Nanaimo flights, says disease control centre

Nanaimo flights for April 3, 4 and 12 listed on BCCDC’s list of flights with COVID-19

A motorcycle instructor going through a traffic cone course. (Photo courtesy of BC Traffic Services)
B.C. Traffic Services reminds drivers to share the road with motorcyclists

36 riders are killed in 2,400 crashes involving motorcycles on B.C. roads every year

Most Read